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3.1 India Bhutan Relations

// In 1968 Indian embassy was established in Bhutan. In 2018, India’s relation with Bhutan is turning 50, you may expect a question.

Important Issues
1_Friendship treaty 1949, 2007
2_Chumbi valley issue.
3_2018 elections and their impact on relationship.
4_Hydropower cooperation issue
5_Views of major experts like S D Muni, Harsh Pant, Suhasini Haidar, P Stobdan.

Brief History of relations

1865 – British defeated Bhutan
1910Treaty of Punakha was signed between them.
1_We’ll not interfere in your domestic matter except foreign policy.
2_British will maintain territorial sovereignty of Bhutan. Bhutan will be protectorate of British.
It Continued till independence. But after independence also British continued to monitor Bhutan’s foreign policy.

CPC came to power in China, It was aiming to consolidate hold over Tibet.
India and Bhutan both were concerned, thus signed ‘India Bhutan Friendship Treaty’. Largely a continuation of 1910 Punakha treaty.
Art 2 – Bhutan will enjoy sovereignty in domestic matters while foreign policy will be largely guided by India.
// Nepal also signed friendship treaty in 1950.

170km highway connecting Thimpu to Indian border was constructed by India. This reflects Bhutan’s tilt to India.
Nehru takes 3 weeks journey on yak to Thimpu, passing through Chumbi valley.  // Sikkim was also not part of India then.

Image result for Nehru on Yak

1961 onward
Bhutan moved to 5 year plans and India started giving developmental assistance.
[ In 2012-2017, India gave 4500 Cr rupees assistance. ]
Project Dantak – started by BRO (Border road organization) in 1961.
Since then almost 1500km road has been constructed.
Also Paro airport and some hydropower projects.
// Monarchy of Bhutan shares close relations with India.

Hydropower projects in Bhutan with Indian assistance. e.g. Chukha hydel project, functioning at present 1000MW.
India gave grants as well as loans in ratio 60:40.
Technical assistance too along with assured buyback provision for hydropower projects. (purchase of surplus electricity).
( Slowly economic interdependence is increasing.)

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1980s and 90s.
900 sq km in north and 400 sq km in west – border issue.
1988 & 1998 – China offered Package deal to Bhutan.
China will give up northern part, Bhutan should give up Chumbi valley.
Bhutan rejected it because of India’s concern Chumbi valley. Siliguri corridor is just 30 km wide, Chinese troop can cut it off easily.
China started claiming territories in east also.
// Bhutan is largest recipient of India’s developmental assistance.

Bhutan 1
Disputed areas in West and North of Bhutan

21st century
Monarchy itself decided to move towards a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy.
[ It was decided seeing protests in Nepal, although monarchy is respected in Bhutan. ]
[ Constitution – candidate should be graduate, every party has to contest from all constituencies… even monarch can be removed with 2/3 majority, monarch will not be 65+, religious people cannot contest elections. ]
2007 – fresh constitution is adopted and India Bhutan friendship was revised.
‘2007 India Bhutan Friendship Treaty’ was signed.
In 2007 Art 2 of 1949 treaty was revised.
‘India and Bhutan shall closely cooperate on issues of national interest’ and no side would allow the use of its territory for activities which are harmful to the national security of the other.

DPT party won to form 1st govt. in Bhutan. It talked about sovereignty.
They have diplomatic relations with 53 countries in 2013.
But no P5 have embassies in Bhutan.
India has concern that China may establish its embassy in Bhutan.
2012 – Bhutanese PM Thinley met Chinese PM Wen Jiabao in Rio +20 summit without taking India in confidence.

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2013 election eves DTP was talking too much about sovereignty.
Oil, Kerosene, LPG subsidies were cut to Bhutan by India.
DTP lost elections. This decision of Indian govt. was criticized in South Asia.
/ / India always argued that India Bhutan have ideal relations in South Asia.

2017 Doklam Stand-off
Doklam Crisis. 73 day stand-off between Indian and Chinese Army.
China claims Chumbi Valley and Doklam Plateau
China had objection on India’s intervention in China-Bhutan border issues.
India gave two arguments
1_2007 treaty obligation.
2_Trijunction is of matter to Indian interest also. In 2012 India had agreement with China under Special Representative mechanism.
// 1993 India China have signed Agreement on Maintaining Peace and Tranquility along LAC on the principles of Panchsheel.
/NSA had been primarily India’s ‘Special Representative.’

Before BRICS 2017 summit, there was disengagement in the stand off.
Sushma Swaraj said status quo ante (Situation before Doklam stand-off ) will be restored. // However media reported that both sides have not significantly backed from line and situation remains more or less same.

Bhutan stayed silent and did not oppose India’s intervention. It shows that Bhutan abides by 2007 treaty.
But Bhutan is also concerned about settling border disputes. And normalize its relations with China too.

2018 Bhutan Elections.
Foreign policy was not discussed in election manifesto.
Election Commission had asked pol parties not to discuss it in election campaigns.
DNT won election over DPT. DPT fought with agenda of sovereignty of self sufficiency.
Shering Lotay became PM of Bhutan.

Other issues

Security cooperation

Operation All Clear.
A military operation conducted by Royal Bhutan Army forces against Assam separatist insurgent groups in the southern regions of Bhutan. [2003-2004]. It was the first operation ever conducted by the Royal Bhutan Army.
Vajpayee govt. cooperated with Bhutan King to flush them out.

IMTRAT (Indian Military Training Team) – India provides training to Royal Bhutanese Army (RBA) officials under it.

Economic cooperation
1_5 year plan assistance.
2_Road building projects.
3_Hydropower cooperation.

Economic concerns.
Landlocked country, transit rights.
India have allowed free entry of goods since 1950s.
According to UN convention, landlocked countries should be given at least two ports.

Overdependence of Bhutan on Indian economy. 80% of their export goes to India.
Further large portion of Bhutan exports is hydroelectricity (70% of its exports). i.e. Single good dependent economy.
Bhutan wants to diversify its economy and exports. Ecotourism, agriculture are important domains to diversify.
// This is important concern for Bhutan and India can help Bhutan in it.
India gives them grants in rupees. Time to time they face rupee crunch and again we need to give them loans.

Bhutan’s public debt is 107% of its GDP. They also fear debt trap.

Hydropower projects – India has brought power from them. In 2009 there was proposal that by 2020, 10,000MW electricity will be produced by Bhutan and India will purchase extra power.
However there is \ delay in implementation of projects. It increases cost also.
Recent projects have been financed under bigger loans. 70:30 – loan to grant ratio. Projects have become expensive.
India has turned power surplus in meantime. So now assured market no longer exists.

SAARC electricity grid.
India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan can share electricities. Bangladesh is in need of electricity.

Expert’s comments on India – Bhutan relationships.


S D Muni (Prof. Sukh Deo Muni)

Eventually full diplomatic relations will develop between Bhutan and China since democracy will develop. India, trying to prevent it will only strengthen the perspective of big bullying brother.

Rather India should take benefit of its advantages
1_Geographical advantage.
2_Close relations with monarchy.
3_We should see that as long as our security and strategic concerns are taken care by Bhutan, India should not oppose normalization of China Bhutan ties.
4_India should not use coercive diplomacy with Bhutan.

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Harsh V Pant

India should avoid repeat of 2013 strategy. It attract unnecessary negative publicity, short sighted and is not strategically sound.
Bhutan should also not blame India like Nepal.
Do not engage in coercive diplomacy. (Realism says different.)

image 1

Suhasini Haidar

1_Hydropower related issues must be speedily resolved.
2_India should be mindful of what Bhutan seeks in whole situation.
3_Need to broaden the economic base of relationship.
4_Liquidity concerns/crunch in Bhutan must be addressed.

In recent interview of Mr. Tandi Dorji, newly elected foreign minister of Bhutan, by Ms. Suhasini Haidar

1_Bhutan continues to follow foreign policy already established by monarchy and all parties have same stand on issue.
2_Concerned about India’s revised policy of CBTE (Cross Border Trade of Electricity) and seeks some changes.
3_It has always been our foreign policy not to build full diplomatic relations with P5, still we have cordial relationship and also P2P interactions with China.

World talks of GDP but in Bhutan its about National Happiness. I am sure that India as a neighbour would be one of the reasons for its happiness.

PM Narendra Modi.

Bharat for Bhutan and Bhutan for Bharat. The colour of our passports may be different but our thinking is the same. India stands committed to Bhutan’s happiness and progress.

PM Narendra Modi.

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